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Holiday Office Party Sickens 55

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
The Florida Channel
Though not always pathogenic, Staphylococcus aureus, or staph, is sometimes the cause of skin infections, sinusitis and food poisoning.

A holiday party that sickened 55 office workers in Maitland this week has been reported to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The luncheon put 20 people in the hospital, including a pregnant woman.

If the Maitland outbreak happened in 2013, it would have ranked No. 8 on Food Safety News’ list of top 10 largest outbreaks.

Here’s how foodborne illness lawyer and Food Safety News publisher Bill Marler put it:

“When you get 50 people or more sick, it’s a big outbreak,” Marler said. “I would call it more moderate because I’ve been involved in the Jack in the Box outbreak and that was E. coli and there were several hundred.”

Dain Weister with the Orange County Department of Health said it could take up to a month for doctors to trace the source. Weister said bacterial toxins, like botulism or staph, are likely culprits.

“Our epidemiologist aren’t sure what the cause is, but it certainly, toxins are something that would cause people to get sick quickly like this,” Weister said. “Because this was within three or four hours.”

The fire department said although some patients experienced severe symptoms, all are in stable condition. A total of 700 people went to the office party.

-- Health News Florida reporter Abe Aboraya is part of WMFE in Orlando. Contact him at (407) 273-2300 x 183, on Twitter @AbeAboraya, or email at Health News Florida receives support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Health News Florida reporter Abe Aboraya works for WMFE in Orlando. He started writing for newspapers in high school. After graduating from the University of Central Florida in 2007, he spent a year traveling and working as a freelance reporter for the Seattle Times and the Seattle Weekly, and working for local news websites in the San Francisco Bay area. Most recently Abe worked as a reporter for the Orlando Business Journal. He comes from a family of health care workers.